Read as part of CBR12 Bingo: UnCannon. Walter Mosley is black.
This book continues what I believe to be Walter Mosley’s best work: these series of small, wrenching looks into the life of Socrates Fortlow, an ex-con trying to make a new life for himself in Watts, Los Angeles. He lives with the mentality of one who is permanently imprisoned. Every step is a hazard, every chance encounter a threat. His actions are extremely measured and guarded.
This was written when Mosley’s talent and ambition were at the pinnacle of their eclipse and we are all the better for it. I don’t say this with any sense of hyperbole: I don’t think I’ve read a character more fully realized than Socrates Fortlow. Mosley knows exactly who he is, what his environment is, and how he wants to tell his story. Everything from simple moves to non sequiturs makes Socrates feel like a real person, thus injecting new life into what would otherwise be a series of small stakes tales.
In this particular collection, Mosley does something I found daring but it pays off: he allows Socrates to go. Whereas his character was pretty static in the first book, here he tries new things, gets new opportunities. The hesitancy is still there but Mosley trusts the reader to go along with Socrates and he pulls it off. It adds texture to an already nuanced journey.
This one falls a hair short of the greatness of the first book. It’s got some redundancy; some of the stories didn’t catch me like the entirety of the first collection did. But those are minor gripes. This is an excellent book in an excellent series that will probably be on my Best Of list by the end of the year.